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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

The College Archives

Frequently asked questions about the College

When did the College start?

It began in 1841 as the Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane. It became the Medico-Psychological Association in 1865, the Royal Medico-Psychological Association in 1926 and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1971.

What do the symbols on the College Coat of Arms represent?

The arms were originally granted to the Royal Medico-Psychological Association in 1926, and were confirmed to the College on its' formation in 1971 by the College of Arms. They were also registered in Scotland by the Court of the Lord Lyon.

The coat of arms incorporates the traditional caduceus and serpents symbolic of Medicine, and the equally traditional butterflies associated with psyche. Previous to the grant, the Medico-Psychological Association had used a device showing the seated Psyche with butterfly's wings.

What does the College do?
It is the professional and educational body for psychiatrists and organises their qualifying examination, the MRCPsych. It also organises continuing professional development programmes, promotes study and research work in psychiatry, aims to improve standards of education and care and has an extensive range of public education initiatives.
How many members are there?
About 15,239, including about 2,632 overseas members. They are all medically qualified and are specialists in psychiatry or working towards specialising in psychiatry.
What is the College structure?
The College consists of English divisions, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Wales, and specialist faculties, sections and special interest groups which represent different branches of psychiatry.
How is the College organised?
The College Officers are the President, Vice-Presidents, Dean, Registrar and Treasurer. The Officers are usually practicing clinicians who are willing to commit time to the work of the College. The main administrative committees are the Court of Electors, the Council, the Finance Management Committee and the Public Policy Committee and there are other standing committees, sub-committees, working parties and groups
Why is it called a College when there aren't any students?
In this context, 'College' means an organised group of professional people with particular aims and duties. Many of the medical specialties have royal colleges as their administrative bodies. The word royal is used because the College has a royal charter.
Are there any psychiatrists at 21 Prescot St?
No, the College is run by administrative staff although many psychiatrists visit the building for meetings and similar purposes.
What are the College departments?
There is the Membership Relations and Divisions, Communications and Policy, Finance and Operations, Professional Standards, Publications and Website, and the College Centre for Quality Improvement (CCQI) and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH). 
What is the CCQI and NCCMH?
They are departments of the College involved in health services research, quality initiatives, services evaluation and audit projects. The CCQI is the College Centre for Quality Improvement whilst the NCCMH is the National Collaborating Centre Mental Health.
What does the College publish?
The four main psychiatric journals, the British Journal of Psychiatry, the Psychiatrist, Advances in Psychiatric Treatment and International Psychiatry. It publishes books on psychiatry under the Gaskell imprint and issues guidelines and statements in the form of reports and occasional papers. It also produces a wide variety of mental health information materials.